My (very odd) 2nd Favorite Christmas Memory..
Thoughts to enourage our trust and dependence on Jesus…
The LORD called to Moses from the Tabernacle* and said to him, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. Leviticus 1:1-2 NLT
Following Mary’s example, the fundamental practice for healing the wounds of the false-self system is to fulfill the duties of our job in life. This includes helping people who are counting on us. (1)
My real apprenticeship in the ministry was served right there on that modest farm at my father’s side. There was always work to be done and lots of it. Though my dad was rather laid back as farmers go, he was a hard worker. There were cows to be fed, hogs to be slopped, eggs to gather, manure to be shoveled, hay to be cut, baled, and stacked, corn first to be planted, then cultivated, later picked, then finally shelled, grain to be drilled and harvested. I learned from dad the invaluable lesson that the best work of all is work done for its own sake. (2)
Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evil only because we cannot read the secret script of God’s hidden providence and so cannot discover the ends at which He aims.… The man of true faith may live in the absolute assurance that his steps are ordered by the Lord. For him, misfortune is outside the bounds of possibility (3)
My favorite Christmas memory will always be playing a LORD piano in my grandfather’s basement, while he (a former professional singer), my Uncle Bill, my Uncle Butch and my Dad sang together in harmony. All my cousins would be lined up on the stairs, and it was great. I remember doing it from the time I was 11 till I was 15, and I still miss the peace and harmony of those days.
But this post is about my second favorite Christmas memory, and that occurred for a few years at the corner of Lincoln and Tustin, in the city of Orange. I worked graveyard shift at a Denny’s there, and the place was always packed – waiting list for 23 of 24 hours we were open one year.
As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, the quotes above all reminded me of that precious time in my life, of working my tail off waiting tables, and the generosity of those people I served.
Like Senkbeil, this was my best training for ministry, learning how to really listen to people, not just for their order, but to make them feel at home. And yes, the best work is simply done – as it lays before us.
In the midst of that hard work, I often forget the dreams that were shattered In the brutal years of 1986 and 1987. I just soaked myself up in my work, and somewhere I still have the comment cards from that day… which showed that I could care and help people. So Keating’s work reminded me of that unique blessing of simple hard work- fulfilling the duties of life, just as the Virgin Mary did. It is hard to say to God that we want to let Him bring about what He desires… knowing that may not dovetail in with our plans.
Which brings us to Tozer, and the idea that there is misfortune, that what is going on in our lives has a direct purpose. He has promised such in places like Romans 8:28-38 – where all things work for good – because they cannot separate us from God. When I struggle with misfortune, or what I perceive to be misfortune (like my connective tissue disorder which can cause pain, and literal heartache) or anything else, I need to know God is in charge. I can then throw myself back into my work, knowing God is taking care of the rest.
I wish I would have learned this back in the day… but I can see it… in the satisfaction that ended those Christmas Days and the double shifts I worked. (11pm to 7 am, then back at 4-midnight) Oddly I miss them now, the energy, the people who had no where else to go.. and the satisfaction that at the end of the day.
God was with me… and still is… and with you!
(1) Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 355.
(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 1–2.
(3) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Evangelism and the Toboggan Tape…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:18-20 (NLT2)
For a Christian apostolate is something instinctive. It is not something added onto his daily activities and his professional work from the outside. I have repeated it constantly, since the day that our Lord chose for the foundation of Opus Dei! We have to sanctify our ordinary work, we have to sanctify others through the exercise of the particular profession that is proper to each of us, in our own particular state in life. . . . We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us: this man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is willing to understand, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love.9
There is a great modern error which I want to mention: it is that the coming of the Spirit happened once for all, that the individual Christian is not affected by it.… This error asserts that the coming of the Holy Spirit is an historic thing, an advance in the dispensational workings of God; but that it is all settled now and we need give no further thought to it. It is all here and we have it all, and if we believe in Christ that is it, and there isn’t anything more.…
Somewhere in New Hampshire there is a cassette tape that would bring a smile to the baddest of Scrooges, that would make a Grinch chuckle uncontrollably. And it is the perfect illustration of Evangelism.
I may have been 5, my brother 7? When we descended the stairs on Christmas morning, there were the usual stockings filled with lifesavers books and other things. New underwear, new socks, a new shirt or two. But there were two special gifts that we had to share. A Radio Shack cassette recorder and the TOBOGGAN!!!
The first thing we were to record was what we got for Christmas. My mom wanted us to record our gifts, beore we tested the big gift out. So I started that. I would mention the lifesavers, and Steve would yell – and a Tobaggon, I say new pajamas, and a TOBOGGAN, a new hot wheels car, and A TOBOGGAN. This went on for 10-15 minutes, with TOBOGGAN becoming a comma, but louder and louder each time.
So excited was my brother about going out on the Tobaggon, that it was all he could think of! ( I knew who would be dragging it back up the hill each time… so I was excited, but I wasn’t as excited!)
Our mission, our apostolate has to become like my brother’s determination to mention the Tobaggon as the greatest of gifts he had ever received! (Uhm … Steve – it was given to us, by the way!) We have to be that excited, that we just tell people about the Lord who has come to us,
That is the impact of the Spirit (when we aren’t theologically quenching Him) as He works in our life. Showing us a fortaste of the glory of God in which we shall share, comforting us, making all things work for good for those in love with God, because we know He loves us.
That is why we don’t have to worry, because we have been so aware of the presence of God, the words come right out, as we share with people the reason we have hope – because of the love of God… because He loves US?!!!! How amazing is that?
We are as enamored with His love, as a child is with Christmas presents. The way to do this is simple, compare what life is like without Jesus to what it is now> Now you are assured your sins are forgiven, that you are no longer broken and alone, and that eternity, celebrating with God is coming…
Hear the Spirit, open your eyes and see what the scriptures reveal to youabout Jesus and you!
And may you truly be as excited about His gift, as a child receiving a tobaggon!
Quoted from Escriva, Josemaria, Christ is Passing By, in Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 109). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).